An exclusive Q&A with British pole vaulter Molly Caudery, who has both Olympic and European ambitions in 2024
If you’re going to make a statement at the start of the season, then do it in an Olympic year.
Molly Caudery, who finished fifth in her debut world pole vault final and claimed silver at the Commonwealth Games, is already visualising the prospect of Paris 2024.
The British 23-year-old currently holds the world pole vault lead with the 4.83m she cleared at Meeting de l’Eure in Val-de-Reuil this past Sunday (January 28), a Continental Indoor Tour silver event.
Not many athletes can boast they’ve improved their personal best by eight centimetres in just a single vault, yet that’s what Caudery achieved. Her previous best mark of 4.75m was in front of 30,000 fans in the world final in Budapest.
Caudery herself states she thrives under pressure and to clear such a height in January raises eyebrows because you wonder, what could be possible this season?
Here’s AW’s exclusive Q&A with Caudery on everything from mindset and momentum to medals and memories.
What are your first feelings of vaulting 4.83m?
It’s still not sunk in. There’s such a fine line between the 4.70m – 4.80m mark so to break through that barrier and overcome that is amazing. I feel confident and I’m in great shape.
In the last year I’ve increased my personal best by 23cm! That’s such a huge leap, almost unheard of and it’s been a big breakthrough for me. I knew that the world lead was 4.83m so I thought ‘let’s give it a go’ and on the second attempt I came down with the bar still standing. It shocked me and everyone else.
I knew that I needed the next pole up to get over the next height (4.83m). I hit all my marks and you can normally tell from the take off how it will go. As soon as I hit that take off I thought I could do it.
Having a good crowd made such a difference and I respond really well to the noise in the arena. It just elevates you.
To do this in an Olympic year, you must be thinking that anything is possible in this form.
I never want to take anything for granted as I’ve had my fair share of injuries. I’m just trying to take things day by day but I can’t help but get excited because I realise I’m in good shape. I want to hold on to, and maybe build a little bit, the feeling I’ve got right now throughout the year. If so, then I’ll be in a great position going into the Olympics.
For anyone who doesn’t know, what’s the impact of going up a pole in pole vault?
In pole vault there are different lengths and stiffness levels for the poles. It can get quite confusing! Towards the latter end of the competition, you need something stiffer to catapult you into the air a little bit more. That takes a bit more speed and confidence – the latter is definitely something I’ve built more of training in South Africa.
So, what’s the training been like for you in South Africa?
South Africa was amazing and I personally love warm weather training. I think it sets you up so nicely for the year and gets you out of your normal environment. Your sole focus is training and there are no distractions. With the warmth and the sun you can push yourself an extra 1% and that’s greater than you’d do in the UK this time of the year.
I was a bit conservative in South Africa and didn’t want to push myself too much. But I’m in good shape. My body feels great and my speed was also good. I didn’t realise how great that was until my opening competition!
Have you worked on anything specifically that you worked on at the back end of 2023 that you’ve brought into 2024?
To be honest, this has been my first winter’s training for so long. In previous winters, I’ve been riddled with injury. Two years ago I had the accident with my finger and last year I had two surgeries which I had to come through.
This winter, I’ve not only been able to carry over the confidence from the World Championships but also focus on things like speed work. In the world final I felt slightly out of place in Budapest but I think I’m slowly starting to say to myself that ‘this is where I belong’. That’s a really nice feeling.
Could you explain more about those previous injuries?
The finger injury happened on Christmas Eve  and that was such a disappointing one as I was in really good shape then. I almost chopped my finger off and I was out for three months. It happened when I caught my finger between the rack and bar in the gym. Having three surgeries on that was just a bit of nightmare but I stayed positive and worked on my weaknesses, which helped in the long run.
I had a good Commonwealth Games and European Championships in 2022 but had some Achilles pain in the season so had surgery in September and that was a six month rehab. Then I got back to training but had the same pain, so had another surgery in March, which was a shorter recovery of six weeks.
Then I had a miraculous turnaround by finishing fifth at the Worlds. I was still pole vaulting in my head and imagining competing when I was going through rehab. I was visualising non-stop and that’s all I could see. When I returned to vaulting some of the things that I needed to work on almost disappeared because I’d been visualising the perfect jump so much. It had a huge impact.
Was there almost an element of imposter syndrome in Budapest then?
I’ve been saying this to a few people recently, and I never really understood the term [imposter syndrome] but I’m just in shock that this is me and all of this is happening. I know that I’m putting in the hard work but just to be rewarded for it is so weird! I’ve always seen other people do well or get contracts and I’ve never quite been there. Now suddenly, that’s changed.
Now you’ve cleared 4.83m, do you think it’s a case of ‘how high can I go?’
Yeah a bit! I don’t want to get ahead of myself just now and am focused on consolidating that 4.83m with some jumps between 4.70m and that mark. It was a clean jump and there is definitely more in the tank. If I can just fine tune a couple of things like gripping a little bit higher on the poles or going up to the next pole then who knows?
Have you looked at other pole vaulters as well like Mondo Duplantis or Katie Moon? Can you take aspects of what they do technically into your training?
Pole vault is such a unique discipline and there’s such a large continuum and everyone does something different. Mondo’s technique is almost unteachable and he’s a freak of nature! He does something that works for him but if you were to compare his jump to the ‘perfect technical model’, it’s not quite the same.
Then the US girls are so fast. I’m maybe not as quick as them so my on-pole technique will probably have to be better to get to the same height right now. I do definitely take bits from other vaulters and put them into mine, just to make it a well-rounded combination.
How do you view the attention pole vaulting is getting now? It seems so popular.
When I look at it online and social media, posts about the pole vault are always popular. Then at championships there are so many people who want to get specific tickets for the pole vault. I think it’s taken a step on. The women’s field right now is incredible and at the Worlds I think there was the highest qualification height to get into the final.
Then in the final, four girls cleared 4.80m. It’s great for athletics. Mondo’s also done wonders for the men’s event and I love the buzz that the pole vault brings to people at the moment.
Where you’ve come from, starting out in the pole vault for the first time, to where you are now; can you believe the journey that you’ve had?
I grew up in Cornwall until I was 18 and moved away for university. It’s such a lovely community but it was quite small and the nearest indoor facilities were around three hours away. We battled through it and that helped me become who I am now!
When I started out at 11, looking at myself now, I would’ve been someone that I would’ve looked up to and that’s nice to think. Younger me would’ve been so proud of myself. It’s just been an unbelievable journey so far and I’m really excited for the future because there’s so much more to come.
What got you into pole vault in the first place then?
I tried a bit of everything as a kid. I did gymnastics until I was 11. Then I transitioned into athletics and started out in the multi-events so did a lot of hurdles and high jump. I filtered down into the pole vault and it was the event that I was the best at. So from 15 I solely focused on the pole vault and it went from there.
I would’ve loved to say I could’ve been a heptathlete but I can’t throw. Javelin would’ve been a nightmare! Then seeing how I’ve got a lot friends who are heptathletes and seeing how they train is another thing!
Is the Olympics now the prime focus?
The Olympics is the one goal that every athlete has in their lives. I don’t even have words for it. Just to be at the Olympics later this year is mind-blowing but then to realise the shape I’m in gets me so excited. When I was a kid I remember watching the Games in Beijing 2008 when I was just eight years old. I can’t wait to hopefully be a part of it!
I think European countries have such notorious crowds and they carry the athletes when we compete. I love being in front of such a big audience so hopefully that carries me through!
What’s the main goal for 2024? Is it a height, medal or do you just look at the process?
To be honest there’s already a little tick on the height as a 4.80m+ clearance has always been on the radar! The main aim is the World Indoors, Europeans and then the Olympics. I’d like to medal at the Europeans. The Olympics is a bit of a battle but let’s get to the final and see what happens. I do like pressure situations and it brings out the best in me.
You’ve got a big following on Instagram (166,000). How important is social media in inspiring the next generation but also being aware of the dangers?
There’s no hiding, whether we like it or not, social media is a huge part of the modern day. You can shy away or embrace it and I prefer the latter. I enjoy content creation and things like that. It’s nice to give an insight into training and if that can inspire just one other person then that’s amazing. If it can inspire every single person that follows me then even better!
There is the darker side to social media which I kind of turn a blind eye to it all. If there is a negative comment then I put it aside, don’t let it affect me and rise above it.
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